University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > RCEAL Tuesday Colloquia > Incidental learning of word order regularities: How abstract and how implicit?

Incidental learning of word order regularities: How abstract and how implicit?

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The artificial grammar learning paradigm is popular within experimental psychology as a means of studying the incidental acquisition of sequence knowledge. There has been considerable debate over whether the knowledge that is acquired can be described in terms of abstract rules and whether it is truly implicit. The same questions are relevant to the acquisition of word order regularities in a second language. I shall describe two sets of studies that used a novel paradigm to explore these issues. Participants were exposed to sentences comprising L1 (English) lexis but word order patterns from an unknown language (Japanese or German) in a meaning-focused task. Subsequent performance in a grammaticality judgment task showed that participants had incidentally acquired the abstract syntactic patterns underlying the sentences they had been exposed to, but not the generalised rules that one might have expected to be licensed by these sentence patterns. Subjective measures of awareness showed that grammaticality judgments were at least in part driven by unconscious knowledge and intuition, and on-line performance measures revealed knowledge of sequential structure in the absence of awareness of grammaticality. Therefore, word order regularities can be learned incidentally, the resulting knowledge can be partially implicit, but there are limitations on the generality of what is learned.

This talk is part of the RCEAL Tuesday Colloquia series.

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